Food Adventures #8

Life Through A Lens #23- SPRING HAS SPRUNG

Union Pasadena

Union Restaurant is a small Italian place in the Old Pasadena area. Located in the backstreets, it’s tucked away amongst lots of other eateries. I had heard about this place and their food before, and knew immediately I had to go. While trying to make reservations, we found that Union is really popular and fills up fast. We ended up making our booking nearly two weeks in advance to get a table at a time we wanted. Pulling up to the restaurant, there were no big signs, but a small chalkboard next to the doors that read “Union”. The hostess was standing right by the door, and quickly walked us to our table, swerving through the tightly packed tables. Most of the tables were for parties of two, with a few tables for four. Dim light hung from the ceiling, suspended by steel rods. Next to the bar counter was a huge blackboard filled with information, all written in calligraphy looking font. On one side, they had their farmers market schedule, listing where they get their produce on each day of the week. The other side of the board was filled with Italian ingredients used in their dishes, along with an explanation of what they were.

After being seated, our waitress brought us the menus and explained what the special of the day was. The menu had four sections, “Start, Field, Pasta and Main”. At the bottom of the menu was a list of the kitchen staff. Reading through the menu, I was overwhelmed at the all the unique dishes. They had a salad made of broccoli sprouts, a homemade cheese dish with garlic and bread, and a cavatelli pasta with wild boar. After spending about 10 minutes racking our brains about what to order, we finally decided. I ordered the bread with house made cultured butter and sea salt to start and the squid ink Lumache with Maine lobster, fennel, lemon and truffle butter. My two friends each ordered the duck confit with charred treviso pickled currants and grapefruit, the smoked stracciatella ravioli with tomato orange fondue, whey and basil, and the special of the day which was a roast pork. They brought out the bread and duck confit after only 5 minutes. The bread was served on a thick board with a bowl of spiced pickles in the middle. The bread was fresh and warm, and the butter was amazingly soft and creamy. After devouring our starters, we waited for our mains which came out about 15 minutes after. I had heard about their squid ink Lumache for a long time and was so excited to try it. It came served in a deep white dish, and the little jewels of lobster popped out from the deep black color of the pasta. As soon as the plate touched the table, the fragrance of truffle and squid ink immediately hit my face. I was expecting the sauce to be a little thicker and creamier, but it was just a light coating of the truffle butter based sauce. The first bite I took was everything and more I had imagined it to be. Being a huge fan of squid ink, I had tried lot’s of foods with it before, pasta, break, risotto, and while I always love it, the taste of squid ink is not usually really strong. However in this pasta, the flavor of the squid ink was extremely strong. The little pieces of fennel were just cooked, adding a bit of crunch to the dish, and the lobster was perfectly poached and tossed in the butter. The Meyer lemon cut through the decadence of the dish and tied it all together. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

After finishing our mains, we sat there content and full, ready to pay and leave. But before we could, the waitress brought us the dessert menu, and I was swayed to order the olive oil cake to share with my friend. It was served with two candied orange slices on top and a dish of vanilla creme anglaise to pour over. The slice of cake was warm and toasted on the outside, but unbelievable moist on the inside. We polished off the dessert, paid and left the restaurant extremely full, but extremely happy and satisfied. Our experience at Union was amazing, and though it was a bit expensive, it was worth every penny. If you check out Union, let me me know what you think in the comments below!

 

March For Our Lives

This past Saturday, a historical moment happened. Over 1 million people around the country came together to bring an end to gun violence in the US. While I try not to get political on here, there are some things I feel I can’t avoid. This is not about red or blue, left or right, liberal or conservative, it’s simply life or death. But instead of looking at this from a negative point of view, I am choosing to look at the positives. And while there is nothing positive about the devastation that runs through the country every day, what has come out of that is extremely inspirational. Being at the Los Angeles March on Saturday began to restore my hope and faith that good will win. During times like these, it can be hard to remember that the good outweigh the bad, that there are more positives than negatives. But seeing all the people of different sexes, color and social class come together to ensure that every child going to school, every black man walking down the street and every person attending a concert can walk in and out safe and unharmed was so heartwarming. I walked beside all these people I had never seen before, but yet we stood in solidarity. I praise all the young students of Parkland High School for being the brave young leaders we so desperately need. These are the people we rely on to make change in the country and the world, to preserve the good of the American culture, while protecting the basic right of all citizens, the right to life. I don’t want to go on and on (because I could), but I just wanted to share my thoughts on what happened over the weekend, along with some photos that showed the protest and strength that we need.

And remember, good will win.

 

 

March For Our Lives: https://marchforourlives.com/

JANE- Brunching in LA

If you can’t already tell, there aren’t many things that bring me more joy than finding a REALLY good place to eat. This morning my friends and I were on a hunt for some Sunday morning brunch. We drove by all of our go-to places only to find never ending lines at all of them. After starting to get hangry (you know it’s a real thing), we quickly searched for breakfast places near us and found Jane on York Blvd in LA. Driving past it, we couldn’t even tell it was a restaurant. The cute little yellow house with a sprawling patio (for seating) was packed, but we decided it was still worth the wait. Their menu was full of enticing options, including different kinds of omelettes, sandwiches and salads. My two friends decided on the breakfast quesadilla with a side of morning potatoes and Arnold Palmers, and I ordered the breakfast sandwich with a vanilla cold brew. Once we ordered we went out to the patio to grab a table in the sun. The purple flowers and little garden just made everything that much more aesthetic (because do it for the insta, right?). Jane was packed with groups of friends, families and couples with their dogs (so cute!!) and was the perfect atmosphere for a low-key Sunday brunch. At around $15 each, we all agreed that Jane is a new go-to and favorite. The portions were extremely generous and the food was delicious. I highly recommend Jane if you are in the LA area and looking for a really yummy brunch! If you try it out, let me know in the comments below.

Website: http://www.janeonyork.com/

Address: 5830 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Phone: (323) 675-1093

Price: $$

Food Adventures #6

Got my Singaporean fix from QQ Kopitiam in Pasadena. The Laksa was super authentic and delicious, just like it would be at home! It was a really generous serving for a super reasonable price (two main dishes and one bubble tea was $21 with tax).

Website: https://www.yelp.com/biz/qq-kopitiam-pasadena

Pricing: $

I know I may be a little late to hop on the bandwagon, but I am beyond obsessed with Halo Top. For those of you who don’t know what it is, Halo Top is an extremely low calorie, high protein ice cream (not that you can tell, it’s amazing!). The calories range from 240-360 calories depending on the flavor, so one serving is never more than 90 calories. A few of my favorite flavors are Birthday Cake, Sea Salt Caramel and Mint Chip.

Website: https://www.halotop.com/

Pricing: $4-5

This beautiful spread is from the Granville at the Americana in Glendale. They have a menu full of modern yet homey dishes that are absolutely delicious! This was the bacon & blue burger with a side salad, the Santa Barbara chicken sandwich, a side of sweet potato fries and the uptown mac & cheese. I would also highly recommend the chicken and blue flatbread (not pictures). A perfect stop for lunch or dinner during a day of shopping!

Website: http://www.granvillecafe.com/glendale

Pricing: $$

*As seen on BuzzFeed* Sushi Stop is a super affordable (and yummy) location in Pasadena (they have other locations too). At $3.25 for most of their dishes, it’s hard to spend more than $16 a person (and that’s if you are eating A LOT). Ranging from sashimi sushi to baked rolls to udon and tempura, they have everything you would ever want. To be honest, after eating so mush sushi in Japan, I was a little skeptical of this, but it did not disappoint!

Website: https://sushistop.com/location/sushistop-pasadena/

BuzzFeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/stevenlim/we-tried-3-sushi-and-250-sushi-to-see-if-its-worth-the-price?utm_term=.roOxJedpE#.wulLQNqV0

Pricing: $

Just throwing this in here because I miss Disneyland. A beautiful mickey mouse-shaped beignet (and some Mint Juleps) from New Orleans Square at Disney.

One of my favorite things about living in LA is finding all the small (what I like to call) hidden gems of the city. Gloria’s Cafe is a small Mexican-inspired breakfast/brunch restaurant tucked away in the back streets of Highland Park. Pictured above is the savory waffle (amazing!) and the breakfast taco. I would also highly recommend their breakfast sandwich which comes on a burger bun with pulled pork and scrambled eggs. For a main dish and (a big a**) iced coffee, I usually pay $14 (including tax and tip).

Website: http://glorias-cafe.com/

Pricing: $$

Where should I go next? Comment your favorite LA spots down below! And if you try one of these places, let me know what you think:)

Life Through A Lens #21- BACK TO REALITY

 

A Little Piece of Home- QQ Kopitiam

QQ Kopitiam is a small Singaporean cafe/restaurant located across from the Pasadena City College on Colorado Blvd. A Kopitiam (Kopi for short) is a traditional coffee shop found in many South East Asian countries, including Singapore. As most of you know, I’ve lived my whole life (up until now) in Singapore, and was in serious need of some comfort food.

The restaurant is located on fairly quiet street, but stands out from the big, red sign. Staying true to traditional Kopi style, before getting seated at your table, you order your food at the counter and pay right there. There was an older couple, the wife running the cashier and the husband running the kitchen,  who owned the place. As soon as we walked in, the lady quickly welcomed us and starting listing off suggestions. She suggested the Laksa (rice noodles in a coconut, curry soup) and Hainanese Chicken Rice (steamed rice with chicken boiled in a ginger broth), both of which are famous Singaporean dishes. Once we ordered (I ordered the Laksa), I started up a brief conversation with the couple and found out that they were both Singaporean and had only been in business for around four years. We chatted for a little bit about where in Singapore we lived and what our favorite Singaporean dishes were.

Laksa is a dish that Singaporeans feel very close to, as it’s served at every Kopi and Hawker stall (Singaporean style outdoor food courts). It is loaded with pungent ingredients including curry leaves, lemongrass, and sambal (a type of chili sauce), making it an acquired taste. Foreigners (or tourists) often have a hard time handling the aroma and flavor of laska, but for Singaporeans it’s a bowl of comfort.

I would 100% recommend QQ Kopitiam for anyone in the area, whether you’re Singaporean or not (the friend I went with wasn’t Singaporean and she loved it!). If you stop by QQ Kopitiam, let me know in the comments below and tell me what you think.

Website (Yelp): https://www.yelp.com/biz/qq-kopitiam-pasadena

Number: (626) 696-3179

Address: 1491 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am to 7pm

Food Adventures #5

A Day at Disney

I’m not usually the person who gets crazy excited about going to Disneyland, in fact the last time I was there was 10 year ago, but a few months ago my friend and I were talking about what to do for her birthday, and Disneyland seemed to be the perfect choice (after all, we do live 45 minutes away). Since the next time I go to Disneyland will probably be in another decade, I decided to write this blog post full of Disney favorites, tips/tricks and photos.

Favs:

If you’re just going to Disney for one day, it can be hard to choose what to do and what to prioritize, so here were some of my favorite rides to ride and things to do that I would prioritize over other things. My favorite rides were Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, It’s a Small World (I know I’m a 5 year old inside haha!), Matterhorn (my favorite time to ride this is at night, especially during Christmas, because you get an amazing view of the whole park lit up), and Splash Mountain. All of these rides are the ones that typically have long lines, so be prepared to wait or spend an extra $10 on tickets to get fast passes (will talk about this later). Other than the rides, Disney is full of fun things to do and places to go. During our day at Disney, I would say we spent only about 50% of the time riding rides, and the other 50% walking around, eating and soaking in all the Disney vibes. With me being me, one of the things we did that I loved was starting our day at the Starbucks on Main Street. I know this sounds super basic, but I absolutely loved the vibe inside the Starbucks (even though the prices are slightly marked up). The store was PACKED and got me excited for the day ahead (I also would not have gotten through the day without my daily coffee). Other than Starbucks, the other food I would highly recommend trying is the Beignets and Mint Juleps in New Orleans Square. We decided to stop there for an afternoon snack around 2:30pm and ended up sitting there for an hour talking, taking pictures and enjoying our snack. It was a perfect little break from a crazy day. My last favorite, pretty obvious, is to end the day by watching the fireworks in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Disneyland is such a magical place and the fireworks that are perfectly times and choreograph to match all of the classic Disney songs is the perfect way to end a day at Disney. And of course, don’t forget to take tons of pictures throughout the day!

 

Tips/Tricks:

Knowing how much we were spending on tickets, food and transportation for a day at Disney, my friends and I wanted to make sure that we were getting the absolute most of the day. For starters, we decided to add an extra $10 onto each of our tickets to get fast passes. What that allowed us all to do was to use the app to book our fast passes for the rides. We were able to use about 10 fast passes throughout the day (which probably saved us a total of 4 hours from waiting in lines). Another tip if you are going to Disney is to designate one person to book the fast passes by making a “party” on the app. All you have to do is have one person add each person to their “party” and each time they book a fast pass, it automatically gets booked for everyone in the group. And when you get to the ride and get into the line, only that one person has to scan their phone and it scans for everyone in the group. Another tip that was super helpful was to go on the busiest/most popular rides earlier in the morning. We got to the park at 8am, right as it opened, and the majority of the people there were families with young children who weren’t exactly rushing for Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. The lines for the bigger, “scarier” rides are much shorter in the morning than they are in the afternoon/evening.

 

Photos: Because if you didn’t Instagram a photo, did you really go to Disneyland?!